I texted my trainer pictures of everything I ate for an entire month. Here's what I learned from the stressful yet eye-opening experience.
When personal trainer Courtney Paul from Bravo's Workout New York offered to whip me into shape for my upcoming vacation to Italy, I jumped on it. I mean, the guy trains Ashley Graham, so I knew I'd be in good hands. Throughout the month of bootcamp-style training with his CPXperience class, I was unable to walk or lift my arms on multiple occasions. But I was lifting heavier weights than I ever thought possible, and I truly felt stronger.
The one part of this deal I hadn't bargained for? Changing my diet. Oh, and sending Courtney photos of everything I ate to keep me accountable and make sure I was following his diet tips for success. Confession: Despite working at Shape, my eating habits have always been less than exemplary. Yes, salads and vegetables have worked their way into my diet more and more as I've gotten older, but mac and cheese and pizza have also remained staples. While I by no means cut out my beloved carbs, I did quickly realize that if I wanted to see real progress, I'd have to watch what I ate, too. What ensued for the next month was sometimes painful (as you'll see below, this guy is pretty much the sassiest person I've ever met) but his method did work. Here are a few things I learned about healthy eating along the way.
1. Don't Skip Meals. Ever. Seriously Though.
This may seem like step one in How to Be a Healthy Functioning Adult 101, but it can be surprisingly easy to forget this basic rule when your day is crammed back-to-back with deadlines and meetings. Having to send in photos of my lunch—and knowing I'd definitely get called out if I didn't—was a built-in way to ensure I actually remembered to stop what I was doing and go get lunch before 4 pm. (Yes, that's actually something I used to do.)
2. Make Splurges Meaningful
OK, so while I was initially ticked off when I received this scolding text, I knew he was right: Not every night can be a celebration filled with cake and champagne if I wanted to make progress. While it can be hard to say 'no' to drinking when your friends suggest happy hour on a random weeknight, I've learned that budgeting for splurge nights is key when it comes to staying on track. I'm still known to make a spontaneous stop if I encounter a particularly tempting Mister Softee truck (It's summer! I'm not a monster!), but Courtney's annoying-yet-helpful texts changed my mindset, and I'm much better about picking and choosing when I go all-out. And if I know ahead of time that I'm going to be enjoying wine and popcorn on Monday night for the Bachelorette, it motivates me to be more careful during the day so I can indulge at night.
3. Sometimes I'm Not Being As "Healthy" As I Think I Am :-/
While to this day I am still proud of myself for resisting bagels on that fateful Wednesday in June, I've learned that sometimes the "healthier" swap that I think I'm making can be almost as bad. Case in point: My go-to pre-packaged 'healthy' vanilla yogurt parfait loaded with sugar. Now, I make my breakfast at home when I can, so I can better monitor how much sugar I'm actually taking in when I start my day.
4. Healthy Snacking *Is* Possible When You Prepare
Despite having a job that allows me to be surrounded by tons of healthy snack options (my desk is filled with KIND bars galore!), I'm not exactly known for turning down cupcakes or cookies (hey, the mid-day slump is a real thing, people!). But by coming to work already prepared with my apple and Justin's nut butter—one of Courtney's approved snacks!—it made it so much easier to avoid hangry impulse decisions. Of course, when presented with a truly special dessert (like Momofuku birthday cake) I'll probably never be the kind of gal to turn it down, but as for those stale cookies sitting on the counter? Pass. (Looking for some new non-boring options? Try these 10 Healthy Snacks to Help You Meet Every Nutrition Goal.)
5. Having Someone Keep You (And Your Excuses) In Check Is SO Important
OK, so we can't all have celebrity trainers to text us day in and day out to keep us honest, but if you start a similar system with your BFF or workout buddy, you can keep each other in line when you start to fall off the wagon. (Here, more reasons why having a fitness buddy is the best thing ever.) As the wise Courtney Paul once said, "excuses every week, results next year." By having someone to keep you on the hook, you'll ensure you don't let yourself turn one bad day into a bad week. Sure, you might get pissed off by her obnoxious memes, but when you realize you're actually reaching your goals, I promise you'll be grateful.